Author: Django Wexler
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Series: Shadow Campaigns Book Four
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With all immediate threats to Vordan removed, Queen Raesinia Orboan wishes to make peace with her once enemies. But First Consul Janus bet Vhalnich has other plans, and he won't stop until Elysium and the Black Pontifex are defeated, even if he has to march across the vast Murnskai Empire to do so. For Winter Ihernglass and Marcus D'Ivoire this upcoming war means choosing between their loyalty to the crown, or the general that's won them every battle.
The Shadow Campaigns has been one of the best new fantasy series' I've read, and I'm always excited when the latest installment gets released. Guns of Empire is book four out of a planned five, and while not my favorite of the four, it's still an excellent addition to the series.
Guns of Empire starts out with a bang, and basically lays out what the focus of the next two books is going to be about. After losing Jane, and along with having some combat related difficulties, Winter Ihernglass has many moments of self-doubt. While these moments in stories can be irritating, fortunately Wexler knows to only focus on them as moments, and finds ways for his characters to overcome these moments, without making them look to whiny.
Marcus looks less like a country bumpkin, or at least appears to be a lot more competent - especially when giving orders in battle. He's still running with his knight's errant gimmick, especially when he's with the Queen, but he gets a lot of shining moments. Marcus has been the hardest character for me to get excited about, but this has been his strongest part in the story yet. The big mystery going forward for Marcus is finding out who is sister is, and I'm pretty sure I've got a pretty good idea who that is.
Raesinia is in a precarious position, especially since it's really unclear who holds all of the power in Vordan: Janus or the Queen. This aura of mystery is Guns of Empire's most compelling aspect, along with what's motivating Janus, and naturally this aura follows Raesinia as she tries to win Janus's generals to her side. The demon that keeps her alive has allowed for Raesinia to survive some unimaginable violence, and that of course continues to be a thing.
Wexler loosely models this book after Napoleon's invasion of Russia. It at points seems he even parodies elements of that infamous campaign with his magic system. As far as action scenes are concerned, there are wide variety of battle types, and are not limited to small violent skirmishes (something Wexler really excels at), large scale line up battles, and of course demon fighting demon battles.
By the end, a lot of questionable decisions about where the final book is going have been made, and I'm not sure I like all the places I think the book is likely to go. I'm not a fan of who most likely will be Marcus's sister. I'm not a fan of what alliance the epilogue is suggesting. And I'm not a fan of the villain, who is so overpowered that it all but guarantees a deus ex machina ending. I could be wrong about where the story is going, or Wexler could execute all these difficult dilemmas as masterfully as he's executed the rest of his story. Speculation aside, I loved Guns of Empire, and for the last book, despite my concerns, all I can say is ... in Wexler I trust.